Cinderella Stories Retold:
The Geopolitics of Taiwanese Idol Dramas

By Shaohua Guo

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 32, no.1  (Spring 2020), pp. 73-107

Amid escalating political tensions in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China, the television industry has nevertheless witnessed an unprecedented degree of collaboration among these three communities. However, despite the flourishing of Chinese television studies, the extent to which these new developments are reshaping the geopolitics of television culture has largely remained understudied.

Taking as a case study Fated to Love You (2008), one of the most popular Taiwanese idol dramas, this essay illustrates the role that geopolitics plays in manufacturing romance. Ostensibly, Fated to Love You repackages Cinderella stories, and highlights how male saviors catalyze the metamorphosis of a female protagonist from a submissive girl to a confident career woman who also discovers true love. However, a closer investigation of Fated to Love You demonstrates the significant role that geopolitics plays in fostering the woman’s transformation. By detailing the spatial construction of Taipei, Shanghai, and rural Taiwan in this drama, this essay demonstrates that Fated to Love You conforms to a hegemonic construction of Chineseness by romanticizing the cross-strait relationship on the one hand, while on the other hand problematizing this construction by highlighting a distinctive Taiwanese identity. The multiple possibilities of reading Chineseness, through a calculated mediation of geopolitical relations, account for the drama’s trans-regional appeal. In pursuing this argument, this essay illustrates how a critical reading of a youth idol drama opens new avenues for understanding the cultural politics embedded in television genres.